Giants

What to make of massive changes to Giants coaching staff

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USATI

What to make of massive changes to Giants coaching staff

SAN FRANCISCO — In retrospect, we all probably should have seen the massive coaching changes coming. Not because the Giants lost 98 games this past season, but because they talked openly at the end of the year about adding multiple stats-inclined people to the front office.

The Giants are trying to catch up to a game now built on homers and strikeouts, and while it’s yet to be seen what they can do on the field, general manager Bobby Evans has taken a sledgehammer to the coaching staff. The first hire, Matt Herges as bullpen coach, is perhaps a sign of things to come. Herges comes from a Dodgers organization that is on the cutting edge and has a huge office at Dodger Stadium dedicated to analytics and new ways of attacking the game. In discussing the reassignments of Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner last week, Evans hinted that the next pitching coach would have more of an analytical background. 

On Friday, on a conference call with beat writers, manager Bruce Bochy said that when all is said and done, “you may see maybe a little bit more of (that analytical approach).”

“I know that’s certainly been part of the discussion,” Bochy said. “It’s not that this staff wasn’t open-minded — some guys were maybe more into it than others. I think as a staff we’re open-minded and I think the front office certainly feels like that. I think Bobby feels like that."

Bochy noted that conversations have been had in the organization for a couple of years about where the game is going. This wasn't something that started during a brutal 2017 season. The Giants are not nearly as old-school as outsiders might think, but they did have a coaching staff that had been together for a while, and the sense in the front office was that some new voices were needed. At the very least, these changes should allow for more engagement between the front office and the coaching staff, a trend elsewhere in the game. 

“We have a tremendous baseball ops (department) that provides all the analytics that we need,” Bochy said. “We try to use them and we try to stay on the cutting edge of what’s going on with the game. I think like with all clubs, you’re seeing more and more of it being used. It’s become more prevalent with all clubs, including with ours.”

A second hint that this is an emphasis came with the second round of shuffling. As hitting coach, Hensley Meulens worked hard to get his hitters to embrace launch angles and exit velocities and all the new metrics that rule the cage. He will now serve as Bochy’s bench coach. From the outside, Ron Wotus appeared to be another member of the staff who fully embraced the changing game, and he helped lead the Giants into the defensive shift era. Like Meulens, Wotus was kept in the dugout, and Bochy said he will continue to position the defense as he serves as third base coach. 

We should know in the next couple of weeks how far the Giants are truly going with all this. They are interviewing candidates for both hitting coach positions as well as pitching coach. While the new coaches should bring a new approach, Bochy noted that he hopes the next pitching coach also brings many of the same qualities Righetti did. 

“He was one of the iconic pitching coaches in the game,” Bochy said. “We don’t get three World Series in five years without Rags.”

They also won’t get to a fourth without a slew of other changes. Perhaps the new staff will help lead the organization in a new direction. Perhaps the Giants really do need to catch up to the behind-the-scenes work being done by the likes of the Dodger and Astros, two of the more stats-based organizations in the game. 

But in talking about the changes to his staff, Bochy offered a reminder that you can’t just try and emulate the Dodgers and Astros off the field and hope for the best. 

“It starts with the talent (on the field),” he said. “And they’re certainly not lacking there, as you can tell.”

Hunter Pence changing positions to accommodate Andrew McCutchen

Hunter Pence changing positions to accommodate Andrew McCutchen

SAN FRANCISCO -- Andrew McCutchen has spent his entire career as a center fielder. With a new team comes a new position. 

Manager Bruce Bochy confirmed on Tuesday that McCutchen will move to right field for the Giants, with Hunter Pence sliding over from right to left. Bochy said he talked to McCutchen about the plan -- one the Giants had throughout the McCutchen chase -- after Monday's trade. 

"I'm looking forward to right field," McCutchen said. "That's one place people can't pick on me saying that my defensive metrics are so bad. I'm looking forward to playing right. I know there's a lot of room out there to run, so it's definitely going to be almost like playing center."

McCutchen said he's looking forward to picking Pence's brain about patrolling right field at AT&T Park. Bochy has already spoken to Pence and said his longtime right fielder is on board with the plan. 

"He's just so excited about getting Cutch on this club that he's good with anything or whatever is best for this club," Bochy said. "So that's the plan right now."

McCutchen has played 11,621 defensive innings in his career and all but 115 1/3 of them have been in center field. He briefly moved to right field last season but shifted back to center when Starling Marte was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance. McCutchen was a Gold Glove Award winner in 2012 but his defensive metrics tailed off in recent seasons. He was worth negative 28 Defensive Runs Saved in 2016 and was at negative 16 DRS last season. 

McCutchen had wanted to stay in center in Pittsburgh, but said it's a new case with a new team.

"I wasn’t too keen on (moving at first) because I felt that I had more there, that I could do something there (in center)," he said. "I honored (the Pirates) once they wanted me to play a little shallower and that backfired on me. I was basically asking for another shot but I didn’t get that chance or opportunity. But now that I’m going into the Giants organization and this is something they want me to do, I’m all for it.

"San Francisco has a huge field. It’s bigger than PNC Park. They’ve got Triples Alley and it’s called Triples Alley for a reason. For me, it’s another center field. I’m moving over a little and if it’s saving my legs and I can get more stolen bases, I’m all game and I’m all for it.”

Pirates front office raves about McCutchen after trading him to Giants

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USATSI

Pirates front office raves about McCutchen after trading him to Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — There was a sense of celebration within the Giants organization on Monday after the addition of Andrew McCutchen. He is easily their best outfielder, a potential solution atop the order, and a player who is known for being a tremendous presence in the clubhouse. 

If the Giants had any doubts, though, they surely felt better after seeing the quotes that came out of Pittsburgh. In a series of statements, Pirates officials made it clear this was a difficult trade to make, with chairman Bob Nutting calling it “one of the most emotionally agonizing decisions that we have had to make in my tenure.”

Nutting, in a statement, said that McCutchen’s smile and energy were infectious even as a teenager. Later, McCutchen got the Pirates to three straight postseason appearances. 

“He did so while always carrying himself with humility, dignity and grace,” Nutting said. 

Team president Frank Coonelly described the trade as painful. 

“(No) individual was more responsible for the success that we had from 2013 to 2015 than Cutch,” Coonelly said in a statement,” And no player was more disappointed than Andrew that we did not break through and win a World Series Championship for the City of Pittsburgh.”

McCutchen was Pittsburgh’s first-round selection in the 2005 draft and made his debut in 2009. In nine seasons with the Pirates, he was a five-time All-Star and a perennial MVP candidate. He won the award in 2013 and finished in the top five of voting for four consecutive seasons. 

General manager Neal Huntington said the decision to actually part with the franchise player was “incredibly difficult.”

“Watching Andrew patrol center field with grace, fly around the bases, drive the ball all around the ballpark, celebrate with his teammates or interact with his family, friends or fans has created lifelong memories for me and many, many others around the game of baseball,” he said.